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Course content

The course is intended to provide students with a detailed understanding of the sustainability issues associated with Northern European agriculture, and is underpinned by an extensive programme of agri-environment research at Harper Adams.

Having completed the MSc you will be able to identify farming systems and determine their key characteristics, and critically evaluate the environmental impacts of conventional, integrated and organic farming systems. You will also learn to assess and exploit the latest developments in technology, and produce integrated farm management solutions that pay due regard to agronomic, social and environmental requirements.

The course

The continuing production of safe, wholesome food in an environmentally sensitive manner is a major political issue for national governments and internationally within global commodity markets. A report produced by the UK Cabinet Office in 2008 (Food Matters: Towards a Strategy for the 21st Century) predicts that the global population will rise to 9 billion by 2050 rising from a current estimate of nearly 6.8Bn. This increase in population size will substantially increase the demand for food. The global estimates vary in magnitude, but it is thought approximately 25% of crops are lost to pests and diseases, such as insects, fungi and other plant pathogens (FAO Crop Prospects and Food Situation 2009)

In a 2009 response to the emerging issues centred on global food security, the UK BBRSC launched a consultation exercise entitled Future Directions in Research Relating to Food Security. In seeking responses as to the direction of future research BBSRC identified a number of key themes. These included the:
■ Translation of research into commercial practice and the creation of effective partnerships to enable exchange of knowledge and development of skills in the uptake of new scientific findings
■ Establishment of require long-term programmes in research and training, underpinned by investment in the agricultural research infrastructure
■ Focus on applying the latest science to increasing crop and animal productivity globally while minimising negative environmental impact (including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving the efficient use of water, energy and other inputs, conserving biodiversity and landscapes), reducing losses from pests and diseases, enhancing food safety and quality for improved nutrition, and reducing waste throughout the food supply chain.

This course is intended to provide students with a key understanding of the issues involved in the sustainable production of food in accordance with the themes outlined above and is underpinned by an extensive programme of associated research at Harper Adams.

How will it benefit me?

The course provides an overview of the key issues involved in sustainable agricultural production within a global context. Since there is a focus on the underlying scientific principles, the course is suited to students of all nationalities in addition to those from the UK. Initially, you will learn to identify global farming systems and determine their key characteristics, before undertaking more complex evaluations of conventional and integrated or organic farming systems. You will undertake training in the use of the latest resources and use these to produce global integrated farm management solutions that pay due regard to agronomic, social, economic and environmental requirements. You will also have the option of undertaking a case study module where you will be able to focus exclusively on farming system of relevance to your background or intended career destination. The research project will provide training in the design, execution, analysis and interpretation of appropriate experiments or surveys to address research questions or problems relevant to sustainable agriculture.


Students have typically entered a wide variety of professions. Some have worked for government departments and agencies such as Natural England or the Environment Agency. Others have joined agrochemical companies or found positions within agricultural or environmental consultancies.

Visit the Sustainable Agriculture page on the Harper Adams University website for more details!





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